Sun reporter Nick Parker was found guilty of reading a Parliament member Siobhain McDonagh’s texts on a stolen phone, the Guardian reported.
The formal charge was reading the texts was holding stolen goods, the BBC said.
Despite being found guilty and being sentenced to three months in jail, the judge decided to suspend the sentence for a year. Parker also has to pay £7,500 costs, according to the BBC.
Parker “overstepped the line between investigative journalist and breaking the law,” the judge Paul Worsley ruled. The person who stole the phone an tried to sell it to the Sun, Michael Ankers, was convicted as well. Ankers was sentenced to six months in jail for the theft, the Yorkshire Post reported.
Parker defended looking through the phone arguing that Ankers told him there was potentially criminal information on the phone because of a text suggesting bribery. The Sun didn’t report on the phone’s contents because Parker concluded the bribery comment was a joke. If the Sun was going to use information from the phone, it agreed to pay Ankers £10,000, according to the Yorkshire Post.
In court, Parker stood by his actions:
“Journalists are obliged to work in a grey area sometimes. They are obliged to take risks.
“I was sent to work on that phone. It’s run by lawyers, it’s run by news desk, senior managers. They sent me. I do not accept I acted unlawfully at all.”
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Parker was also acquitted of aiding and abetting misconduct in public office. That charge was because a police officer contacted him with tips. The police officer, Alan Tierney, pleaded guilty and admitted he sold the Sun stories, as iMediaEthics previously reported.
The Sun indicated it was satisfied with the results, telling the Guardian that
“We are happy for Nick that the jury has cleared him of aiding and abetting misconduct in public office. We are also pleased that the judge acknowledged Nick’s outstanding work in journalism in his remarks.”
It also suggested that it hasn’t made a decision about whether Parker will continue to work for the paper.
He has been suspended for 18 months, according to the Guardian.
A Sun spokesperson told iMediaEthics by e-mail:
“We are very glad that the jury has cleared Nick of aiding and abetting misconduct in public office. We are also pleased that the judge acknowledged Nick’s outstanding work in journalism in his remarks.